Ken Burns's Return to Baseball Snags Mixed Reviews

Excellent story, if a bit "East Coast-y"

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At 8 p.m. tonight on PBS, Ken Burns returns to baseball with his much-anticipated documentary "The Tenth Inning." Picking up where his celebrated 1994 documentary "Baseball" left off, Burns explores the last 15 years of the sport, chronicling the labor strikes, steroids scandals and winning programs of the time. Like anything baseball-related, there's much that hometown fans will dispute. Here's what critics across the country are saying about Burns's latest work:

  • Has a Timely Lesson, writes Roger Abrams at The Huffington Post: "Tonight's debut of Ken Burns' The Tenth Inning comes at the right time for the Nation's sports fans. He begins with a poignant reminder that sports are a business, not just a pleasant pastime for summer nights and fall weekends. The 1994-95 baseball strike can be blamed on greedy players and owners, but mostly it was the inevitable result of decades of business turmoil and personality conflicts in the sport. Now as we face the potential of work stoppages in football and basketball, it is important to remember why collective bargaining did not work in baseball on that occasion and why the strike was necessary."

  • Great Story, Lackluster Artistry, writes Alex Belth at Sports Illustrated: "The only way Burns could satisfy us is to make a 50-hour movie. But the real problem with The Tenth Inning may be that it is a contemporary tale and not a historical one. The filmmakers weren't only faced with figuring out which stories to tell, but which pictures and video and music to use when they had more material available than ever before. Perhaps as a result, Burns seems off. The slow-motion pans and fades are abrupt. With a few exceptions, the music cues are stale and uninspired. Worse, they often distract from the story instead of enhancing it. But if the artistry isn't always extraordinary, The Tenth Inning is still a rich, satisfying experience. It may be short of a grand slam; call it a bases-clearing double and let's count our blessings."

  • Baseball Fans Will Love It, writes 'Duk at Yahoo Sports: "Make no mistake: If you're a fan of both baseball and Burns' style, you're going to enjoy these four hours as our recent memories are committed to the type of historic frame we experienced in the first nine episodes. The film has some shortcomings and is sure to start some arguments because even four hours isn't enough to address all the changes the game has gone through since 1994. However, filmmaking is all about making decisions about inclusion, and baseball is nothing if not a great debate and conversation starter. By combining the two, Burns should have most of the blogosphere talking by Wednesday morning."

  • A Little Too 'East-Coasty,' writes Tom Shales at The Washington Post:

Your degree of interest might depend on where you live, since "Tenth Inning" tends to favor the Northeastern United States and spends relatively little time west of the Mississippi. Especially in the second half (cutely called "The Bottom of the Tenth"), Burns and Novick concentrate on New York, Boston and Baltimore to a degree that seems provincially East-Coasty.

Of course you can't tell the story of baseball since 1994, which is the documentary's goal, without telling the story of the New York Yankees, and you can't talk much about the Yankees without bringing up the team's famous rivalry with the Red Sox. How much this will enthrall people in Chicago, Los Angeles or Denver is problematic.

  • We 'Tried to Humanize' the Steroid Controversy  explained Burns on Colbert last night:

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